Thursday, April 7, 2011

The End of Life is the Phone Interview

When I was too young to understand it, I read Thoreau's quote,

"The end of life is education."

And it deeply resonated with me - so deeply in fact that I luxuriated in degree after degree of higher education to be where I am now with two Master's degrees. (No PhD for me. The MFA was enough).

But lately, my confidence in how I have pursued (or more accurately, meandered toward) the philosophy of Thoreau's quote has come into question. I've begun to doubt what I'm doing or again, more accurately, the ability to which I am doing it. I don't want to read theory. (I know, I know ... no one does, except some people actually do). I can't use the buzzwords. My memory increasingly fails me. All that education is awash in the daily activities of my life. Most days I would rather clean the floors than reread some Faulknerian work. And let's be honest, Faulkner rules.

The catalyst for this moment of doubt is a recent phone interview. I, of the almost negligible social phobias, suffer from a particularly version of catatonia, or maybe its opposite - logorrhea - when it comes to phone interviews. I ramble, I lose thoughts, I inarticulate, I search and search for answers that extinguish in my head like mean clouds of smoke as I approach them.

A bad phone interview does not mean one is in the wrong field except for the importance of the phone interview in this field. They're mandatory. They're the gatekeepers to get the jobs that keep us in books. They're the entranceway to that whole Thoreau-ian end of life thing. I don't know how to get in front of my nerves in that situation and it bothers me that so much weight is carried by such an artificial, nerve-wrecking social context.

This is not to say that I'm wildly better in face-to-face interviews. No, wait. Yes, I am. We all are probably as phone interviews - generally conducted with three or more interviewers - are all dependent on us knowing when to speak, when the interviewer is done speaking, and how our answers are being received in the absence of the visual cues we so depend on as social reinforcement.

So this is all to say:

Dear university for which I would very much like to work, please let me move past the phone interview. I promise to be charming, articulate, and all together very likable and impressive during a campus interview. I will not fidget or pace. I will not race through incoherent monologues that never get anywhere near the appropriate responses.

In short, I will be the intelligent and lovely person I have spent the last thirty-six years becoming. I promise. I'm a gifted and smart teacher, not that you'd know it from the babbling idiot I become on the phone.

Here's what I do know with confidence: Thoreau was wrong. The end of life is the phone interview.

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